Growth Article #4

This is the article that I just submitted this afternoon for publication in this week’s issue of the Cooper Point Journal. I’m not certain whether it will get published or not based on the response from the Journal’s editorial staff, but they said they would make every effort to give me some space in the issue. Here’s hoping.

Dispelling Enrollment Growth Myths
Peter Ellis

There are a number of misconceptions amongst the student body regarding the work of the Enrollment Growth DTF. I would like to take this opportunity to address some of the more glaring ones.

First: the myth that this college has a choice to grow or not grow. In fact, with the construction of Seminar II, the College accepted the condition set upon it by the state Legislature that the population of the College would expand to 5,000 students by the 2014-15 academic year. This growth will not be all at once, for fear of diluting the student population and core values of the College, in addition to putting undue stress on College support offices. Rather, this growth will be spread out across the next ten years.

Second: all growth does not have to (and likely will not) take place solely on the Olympia campus. Concerns regarding the utilization of space across all campuses are fully justified, though the impact of these proposals on space utilization is currently unknown. Several proposals exist to expand the offerings of Tribal and Tacoma programs, as well as expanding the base of Evening/Weekend studies, though the bulk of the proposals focus on expanding Olympia campus offerings.

Third: that this proposed growth lies outside of Evergreen’s usual growth rate. Over the past 20 years, the College has grown an average of 90 FTE per year. FTE stands for Full Time Equivalency, and is the measure by which the State Legislature mandates growth. An undergraduate FTE is actually slightly less than Evergreen’s full-time credit load – 15 credits rather than 16. Graduates, however, have an FTE of 10 credits. One of these FTEs represents a single student taking a full-time credit load. If we apply this rate of growth over the next ten years, the College will reach 5,000 students by the 2014-15 academic year. The role of this DTF is to shape that 90-student-per-year growth in ways consistent with the College’s core values while still providing a workable budget to the College administration.

I realize that this is not a comprehensive list of misconceptions present amongst the student body. The DTF is fully aware that the level of student involvement in its process needs to be addressed. I will be working with the new student representative on the DTF, Rachel Williams, in order to increase the number of opportunities that students have to provide input into the process. As always, however, such opportunities are dependent upon students wanting to be involved in this process. By all means, don’t wait for the DTF to hold conversations with students – have your own conversations. Kick around ideas, express your concerns, then contact me – I want to know what you think.

Peter Ellis serves as a student representative on the Enrollment Growth DTF and Enrollment Coordination Committee.

Growth Article #3

An editorial note on this article — the copy references two articles printed in the two weekly issues before this article was written. One article was a completely misguided attempt to put the onus of enrollment growth on the budding student governance movement on campus; the second article was the response by one of the student governance coordinators to that article. It is to both of these articles that I respond.

Clarifying My Role in Enrollment Growth
Peter Ellis, February 17, 2005

In response to Javier Berrios’ Letter to the Editor last week: I’m confused. Student opinions surrounding the issue of enrollment growth seem very diverse, yet, as the sole student representative, I haven’t heard a word of it except through articles in this newspaper that misrepresent the DTF entirely.

I applaud the work of the student union, first of all, and I am disappointed in Adam Hilton’s failure to check his facts before writing his article. However, that, to me, does not excuse one thing: students have been given opportunities to give their feedback to this DTF and, with the exception of a very small number of students, have failed to do so. The overall student reaction seems to be “So what? I’m graduating before this happens.”

In most cases, this is not actually true. There are a number of proposals being considered which could be implemented as soon as next year. This is dependent, however, upon the Board of Trustees and the President of the college; the DTF only exists to make a recommendation to the administration about where we think the college should grow.

Further, you’re graduating, but you have the most knowledge surrounding Evergreen and the way it works. You have the best insight into what this college is all about. This applies to every member of the student body. This is your college. You can determine its future. I’m on the DTF to ensure that the voices of this student body are heard, but my job is limited by my ability to get constructive feedback.

Perhaps so far I haven’t done my job. So what do I need to do to help? What would enable students to better take part in this process? I admit that this question comes at a point where the DTF is beginning to consider proposals and that perhaps it should have been posed to the community earlier. My fault. I take the blame for that.

I object to assertions that the Enrollment Growth DTF has met “under the noses” of students. This is patently false – the DTF was made known to students in Fall Quarter with an article written by myself in this very newspaper. Proposals would have been freely accepted from students if they had been submitted. There was one student on this campus who was on the list of potential proposals, but nothing was ever submitted.

I want to clarify why I’m on this DTF. I have served on the Enrollment Coordination Committee for over two years and have gained an extensive background on enrollment at Evergreen. I was approached by the chairs of this DTF because of that background, which prepared me for my work on this DTF. Since then, I have made every effort to ensure that the viewpoint of students is well represented.

Being on the DTF, however, is more about reading proposals and being buried in data. For me, it’s making sure student input is welcomed and heard. Give me something to work with. Let me know your concerns, your fears, your hopes, your ideas. I will do my best to ensure that the DTF takes the opinions of students seriously.

Growth Article #2

This is the second article for the Cooper Point Journal that I’ve written so far. I should note that the Journal staff does change some of the details when I submit articles — usually just the titles — so these aren’t exactly as they are presented in published form. In the case of my first article, some detail was added to clarify some details by the editors themselves. As with the first article, this articele has some of the contact information edited out.

Enrollment Growth Updates
Peter Ellis, January 27, 2005

Since Fall Quarter, the Enrollment Growth Disappearing Task Force (DTF) has concerned itself with creating a process by which members of the campus community could submit proposals for Evergreen’s growth to 5,000 FTE. That process is now completed, and the DTF now seeks feedback from the community.

Members of the DTF will be holding a student focus group on February 7th. Students from ten academic programs spanning Evergreen’s curriculum will be participating, with space available for ten additional students. We ask that interested students RSVP by phone or by e-mail. These slots will fill on a first-come, first-serve basis.

The DTF also announces an open comment period on the proposals that we have gathered. These proposals are available on closed reserve in the Library and in the Dean’s Area for community review. We also provide comment sheets with these proposals for community members to provide their feedback. The deadline for this round of feedback is Wednesday, February 9th at noon.

Also on February 9th, the DTF is holding an open forum for all community members from 1:15 to 3PM, in Lab I 1047. Students are strongly encouraged to attend; more information will be posted around campus as the Forum approaches. The DTF requests that forum participants read proposals before attending the forum, as there will not be ample time to provide background on each submitted proposal.

Peter Ellis is a super senior in The Novel: Life and Form. He serves on the Enrollment Growth DTF and the Enrollment Coordination Committee as a student representative.

Cooper Point Journal Articles

I have decided to post the series of articles I’ve written thus far for Evergreen’s student newspaper, the Cooper Point Journal, regarding the college’s growth to 5,000 students by the 2014-15 academic year. These articles are all written as part of my work with the Enrollment Growth DTF. The first is below. I have edited out the contact information listed, since that isn’t really relevant to readers here.

Disappearing Task Force to Plan Campus Growth Charged
Peter Ellis, October 7, 2004

Evergreen, as a college, is growing. Washington State’s college enrollment continues to increase. As a public institution, Evergreen will do its part to accommodate that growth, and has committed to expanding its current enrollment count of around 4,100 students to a total of 5,000 students across all campuses. To help determine the shape of that growth President Les Purce and Provost Don Bantz charged the Enrollment Growth Disappearing Task Force (DTF) in June.

The charge of the DTF is “to recommend a growth plan that will guide us as we work toward an enrollment of 5,000 [full time enrollment] students by the 2014-2015 academic year”. As a result of yearlong work, the DTF will draft and present to the President and Board of Trustees a set of recommendations that will, if accepted, shape the growth of Evergreen as a college.

It is important to realize, however, that this DTF is not making the definitive plan for Evergreen’s growth; the power this DTF has lies only in its ability to craft and propose an enrollment growth plan, not to accept it or implement it on behalf of the entire Evergreen community. The responsibility of accepting and implementing this plan primarily lies with the Board of Trustees, President Les Purce, and the administrative units that operate the College. The question we are faced with is not whether we grow to 5,000 full-time students enrolled at Evergreen; rather, the question is how we make that growth both sustainable and effective. That we grow is a foregone conclusion, and was essentially promised to the State Legislature with the construction of Seminar II.

So what does this mean to Evergreen students? Apart from the obvious growth in the number of people who will be attending Evergreen, this planning could also affect the layout of the college curriculum at basic levels, including possible expansion of upper-division, lower-division, and graduate programs, and the potential addition of support staff to student support offices such as Academic Advising and Access Services (to name examples). These will not be the only areas considered by this group, but they are some of the more obvious areas where students would notice a change should the DTF choose to recommend such changes and the President and Board of Trustees choose to accept the DTF’s final recommendations.

As part of this DTF, it is my job to represent the student population of Evergreen in the crafting and planning of any growth proposal and to ensure that student concerns and issues are recognized and discussed. While the DTF as a whole has already determined the necessity of ensuring that every major party on campus – from faculty and staff to students – can provide input to this process, I intend to be particularly vocal in making sure that students understand the scope of the planning that this DTF is taking on.

I will be publishing a series of articles in the Cooper Point Journal as the work of this DTF continues so that the student population can remain informed as to the questions and concerns surrounding this important work. I invite any comments or questions you may have about this process.

In addition, the DTF is currently seeking one or two students to assist in this planning. I would be happy to answer any questions regarding such a commitment. Students interested in applying should contact Tracey Johnson in the Vice President of Student Affairs office.

Peter Ellis is the student representative on both the Enrollment Growth DTF and the Enrollment Coordination Committee.

Blog Category Changes

I’ve done some combining of categories, since the former "Philosophy" and "Politics" categories for my posts seemed fairly related (and there were only 6 entries in the "Philosophy" category). So, ironically, these sections are now resident in the new "Philosophy and Politics" category. Big shock there.

Also, to reflect the nature of some of my random entries, I’ve renamed the "Unrelated Junk" category to the slightly more whimsical (and less insulting) "Desk Clutter".


Seattle’s Earthquake Preparedness

I have this semi-annoying habit (annoying to me, at least) of wanting to write about something but not doing it when I first see it. Thus, I end up with a backlog of things to write about out of the news that I think are interesting, but usually end up skipping because I’ve forgotten why I wanted to write about it in the first place.

This will probably continue to happen. But for now, I’ll write about something that’s been sitting around in my bookmarks since I saw it. There was an article in the Seattle Times on February 20th about preparing Washington State for devastating earthquakes. I wanted to react to some pieces of it.

As some people may or may not know, four years ago this month, the Nisqually earthquake hit in the Olympia area, more specifically, 6 miles north of Olympia in the Nisqually River Basin (I’ve written about this before in this entry). It caused major damage throughout the Puget Sound region, most notably in Olympia and Seattle. To this day, the Capital Dome on the Capital campus downtown is still under repair because of that earthquake. Since then, Washington has been examining its own preparedness for earthquakes — the subject of this article is an outgrowth of this examination.

The article starts with a description of the earthquake scenario created to test out the damage to Washington’s economy if an earthquake hit along the Seattle Fault:

By the time the shaking stops — 30 sickening seconds later — 1,600 people are dead or dying. More than 24,000 are injured as brick buildings crumble, freeway bridges buckle, ferry terminals slump into the water and the Alaskan Way Viaduct collapses.

More than 45,000 families are forced out of their shattered homes, and nearly 10,000 commercial buildings and houses are destroyed. Another 183,500 buildings are moderately to severely damaged.

The toll on the state’s economy is a staggering $33 billion in property damage and lost income, on a par with the country’s most costly natural disaster to date: the 1994 Northridge earthquake in Southern California.

To give readers a point of reference on where the Seattle Fault lies, here’s some further background:

The Seattle Fault is a geologic fault in the North American Plate that runs from the Issaquah Alps to Hood Canal in Washington state. It passes through Seattle, Washington just south of Downtown and is believed to be capable of generating an earthquake of at least 7.0 on the Richter scale. The Seattle Fault therefore has the potential to cause extensive damage to the city, as much of Pioneer Square and the Industrial District is built on fill, as is the downtown waterfront, which is supported by the Alaskan Way Seawall.

According to another Seattle Times article, the fault is only eight miles beneath the surface. The article further states:

The fault, also called the Seattle Fault Zone, is actually several faults in one. Unlike the better-known San Andreas Fault in California, which consists of a single fracture that parallels the coastline, the Seattle Fault Zone is at least four closely related fractures that run west to east for about 30 miles.

Beginning between Hood Canal and Dyes Inlet near Bremerton, scientists think the fault zone crosses underneath Bainbridge Island and Puget Sound before running through Seattle’s Sodo neighborhood. It continues under Lake Washington and Bellevue before ending near Lake Sammamish and north of Issaquah, said Rick Blakely, a U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) research geophysicist.

The fractures run parallel to each other about eight miles under the Earth’s surface — considered shallow by fault standards. From north to south, the faults cover less than 5 miles.

The original article goes on to examine the assembled earthquake scenario, which makes several recommendations to State authorities:

The scenario group invested three years and almost 4,000 hours of volunteer labor in the project. It recommends the state establish an independent seismic safety board that would report directly to the governor and would push for more highway retrofits and tougher building codes.

The group also is calling for upgrades to facilities such as hospitals, schools and fire stations. And it wants rules that would mandate improvements for the most vulnerable buildings — those made of unreinforced brick or concrete.

“We’ve been plodding along in Washington,” said Don Ballantyne, a Seattle civil engineer who specializes in earthquake-resistant designs and was a leading organizer of the project. “This makes it clear we’re at significant risk, and we should be working hard to manage those risks.”

The problem with this fault is that it can devastate the Puget Sound area by a number of magnitudes, far worse than the 2001 Nisqually Earthquake. The article puts this into perspective quite well, stating that "A magnitude 6.7 earthquake on the Seattle Fault would be up to eight times more destructive than the magnitude 6.8 Nisqually earthquake[…]".

Putting the total impact for the area into rather sharp relief, the article draws a picture of exactly what would happen locally if a bad earthquake struck along the Seattle Fault:

The Seattle seawall would probably crumble, taking out ferry terminals and docks. Thousands of landslides would roar down the area’s steepest slopes and slop into Puget Sound, triggering local tsunamis that could swamp waterfront homes and buildings.

Brick buildings in Pioneer Square and the Chinatown International District would tumble. Also at high risk are the scores of concrete warehouse-type buildings in the Sodo district and further south that house megastores, light industry and other businesses.

In river valleys and low-lying areas built on fill, the shaking would turn loose soils to mush, destroying foundations and breaking buried water pipes and utility lines. The Olympic Pipeline, which carries gasoline and jet fuel from northern refineries, crosses the Seattle Fault in Bellevue and passes through unstable soils in the Renton and Kent valleys.

A big chunk of Harbor Island, in the heart of the Port of Seattle, could slide into Elliott Bay, taking with it container terminals, cranes and docks.

Up to 40 percent of schools could be unusable as a result of the earthquake, and damage to hospitals could slash the number of available patient beds by 75 percent in the first days after the quake.

One of the biggest blows to the economy would be traffic snarls that could take years to unravel.


With ports and ferries crippled and highways impassible, many businesses might be forced to leave the area. To understand the impact, scenario writers looked to Kobe, Japan, where a magnitude 6.9 earthquake on a similar fault in 1995 drove business to other cities.

Even though this scenario isn’t 100% certain, it has pretty clear impacts on the state as a whole. It makes clear that Washington needs to pay attention and begin an earthquake preparedness effort to bring the infrastructure of the State up to code and prepare it for disasters.


The article makes it abundantly clear that the recommendations put forth as a result of this scenario need to be implemented, and this is a point that I won’t even bother to argue with — I agree. I’ve seen remnants of the damage from the Nisqually earthquake — Evergreen’s campus still has a lot of cracks in walkways in certain places where the ground settled after the quake, and the same is true throughout Olympia — and photos of Olympia and the surrounding area immediately after the earthquake showed a number of areas hit severely with damage.

I’m not sure that the recommendations go far enough in terms of accountability. The recommendation to create an advisory board reporting directly to the Governor is all well and good, but only works if the Governor decides to make earthquake preparedness a political priority. This should be statewide, but at the same time, locally coordinated efforts are likely to have far more power and far more durability. Municipal efforts in the area’s major cities — Seattle, Olympia, Tacoma, Everett, Bellingham, Bellevue, Port Angeles — organized by citizens and endorsed by municipal public works departments are likely to have a broader impact. Such an opportunity would provide for localized education about earthquake risks, what to do to prepare for an earthquake, and encourage ongoing dialogues about safety and personal awareness.

In addition, the expectation that Washington’s Department of Transportation can upgrade highways fast enough is folly. I’ll take an example from the Snohomish area — the expansion of Highway 522 between Bothell and Monroe to two lanes in both directions. Originally, between Woodinville and Monroe (about a 5-mile stretch, if my math is right), 522 spanned only one lane. Several years ago now, this was expanded to two lanes just past one of the two lights between the Woodinville/Monroe section. Now, it bottlenecks just beyond that light, and the State Department of Transportation has not had budget or support to complete the expansion. By the time the project is complete, further expansions may be required, though I don’t personally know whether the area can support additional lanes beyond the current proposed expansion.

The Highway 522 retrofit is not the only area where the Department of Transportation lacks funds to complete the project — the same is true throughout the state. Quite simply, with the ongoing statewide budget shortfall, we cannot realistically expect that any of these upgrades will occur within a reasonable amount of time. Granted, the State Legislature apparently has more money this year than they did last year, but the likelihood that any significant amount of it goes to transportation concerns seems unlikely from my standpoint.

The article is utterly and completely right — we need to be prepared. Seattle isn’t called "The Gateway to the Pacific Rim" for nothing. If that gateway collapses, it will harm far more than the local economy.

Free Yearly Credit Reports Provided by Law

I just happened to be reading a Seattle Times article on the importance of knowing your partner’s credit score before marriage. In that article, there’s an almost unnoticeable little block of text:

Looking at credit reports annually is a good idea, anyway, to discover any inaccuracies that could negatively affect how creditors look at you, said Holly Hunter, a financial planner in Portsmouth, N.H.

The big three credit bureaus — Experian, 888-397-3742; Equifax, 800-685-1111; and TransUnion, 800-888-4213 — sell credit reports. A new federal law, already in effect in Washington state, entitles consumers to one free credit report a year (emphasis mine).

"Well, that’s interesting," I thought to myself — what’s the deal here? I did a quick Google search and came up with an FTC announcement, which states:

Soon you’ll be able to get your credit report for free. A recent amendment to the federal Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) requires each of the nationwide consumer reporting companies to provide you with a free copy of your credit report, at your request, once every 12 months, from The Federal Trade Commission (FTC), the nation’s consumer protection agency, has prepared a brochure, Your Access to Free Credit Reports, explaining your rights and how to order a free annual credit report.

The law took effect on the West Coast on December 1, 2004 and is slowly being phased in nationally — Midwestern states can access under this law by March 1 of this year. The site also provides a link to, the ordering venue for the free reports.

Personally, I’m surprised I hadn’t heard of this — it doesn’t seem like it’s overly popular knowledge, though I could be wrong. Cool, though. Very cool.

The Pledge of Allegiance

From Global Green USA, the Pledge of Allegiance to American Energy Independence:

I hereby declare my pledge of allegiance to America’s independence from our nation’s economically and environmentally damaging reliance on foreign and domestic oil, and fossil fuels.

In order to promote the long-term health of the economy and the efficient use of my taxpayer dollars, I call upon my elected officials to pass legislation that improves fuel efficiency standards and increases investment in renewable energy. Our nation and world needs a future powered by clean energy — including solar, wind and hydrogen from renewable sources — not coal and nuclear power.

I urge our legislative leaders to demand that U.S. automakers increase research, development and marketing for electric, hybrid and fuel cell vehicles. I further call upon our elected officials, including state and municipal government agencies, to purchase alternative fuel vehicles, renewable energy, and green building technologies.

I hereby accept a personal commitment to improve my own automobile’s fuel efficiency through simple maintenance. I also will seek out new car purchases with high fuel efficiency standards or utilize alternative fuel technology, as well as reduce energy use in my home and, where possible, purchase solar and other renewable technologies.

This I pledge for the well being of the environment, and the security of our nation’s, and our world’s, future generations.

This is a pretty good encapsulation of my own environmental values. An interesting endeavor as well — it’s an extension of an organization called Green Cross International, which is headed by Mikhail Gorbachev. The founding members include famous Hollywood actors, including Orlando Bloom and Charlize Theron.

Prius Gallery

I heard from Sean the other day that his girlfriend, Sarah, took some photos of the Salsa Red Pearl Prius that her parents recently bought. The album is pretty much just like any other car photo series I’ve ever seen, but I drooled over it anyway.

No offense to Sarah, of course.